Clean Electricity Policies
As state renewable portfolio targets are being met and surpassed, a new wave of clean energy policies are being developed in an effort to decarbonize the electricity system. Oftentimes, these clean policies and goals are built into an economy-wide strategy, with greenhouse gas reductions targeted amongst the electricity, transportation, commercial, residential, agriculture, and industrial sectors. In the Pacific Northwest, Washington and Oregon have state-wide clean energy regulation requiring 100% clean, non-emitting electricity supply by 2045 and 2040, respectively. However, Oregon’s clean energy policy was adopted in July 2021 and therefore was not included in the 2021 Power Plan clean policy analysis. Idaho and Montana have state greenhouse gas reduction goals and utility and community level clean electricity goals that lead to considerable aggregate state clean energy goals.
For a comprehensive collection of WECC-wide renewable and clean goals from the state level down to the municipal level, see the Council’s clean policy repository.
State-Level Clean Policies
There are two primary policy approaches to decarbonizing the electricity industry. These approaches may be independent, or inclusive as part of a broader decarbonization strategy. The first is a greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal based on an earlier year’s emissions, for example Oregon’s goal of 80% reduction in 1990 emissions, by 2050. The second is a specific target of qualifying renewable and/or clean electricity as a percentage of total electricity supply. Because the latter has direct ties to current and future electricity resource portfolios, these have been aggregated and included in the 2021 Power Plan’s clean policy analysis and modeling requirements. While greenhouse gas reduction goals are not explicitly embedded in the analysis, the intent is often captured in the aggregation of clean policies and goals.
The Council’s power plan is a plan for the region; however, the Pacific Northwest is obviously directly affected by the resources and policies that exist in the surrounding states and markets, in particular the Western Interconnect, or WECC.
WECC-wide State Clean Energy Policies and Goals
|State/Province||Renewable Portfolio Standard||Clean/Carbon Policy||No Coal Policy/Mandate|
X = Regulation; O = Goal
For a complete summary of WECC-wide state-level policies, see the clean policy repository.
Senate Bill 5116, the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA), was signed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee on May 7, 2019. CETA mandates that by 2045, Washington must have a 100% non-emitting, clean electricity supply. As an interim step, by 2030, the electricity supply must be 100% greenhouse gas neutral, with at least 80% from non-emitting and/or renewable resources. This allows electricity suppliers and utilities the flexibility to use limited amounts (up to 20%) of emitting resources like natural gas until 2045 as long as they offset the emissions through alternative means of compliance. Alternative compliance mechanisms include unbundled RECs, investments in energy transformation projects (for example, investments in electric car infrastructure), energy efficiency weatherization efforts, and renewable natural gas. Washington’s original RPS remains in effect and is incorporated into CETA. In addition, by 2025, Washington must eliminate all coal from its electricity supply, including out-of-state long-term energy sales contracts.
Washington – RPS and Clean Target (100% state sales to meet CETA; 84% to meet RPS)
In order to ensure a smooth transition to achieve the 2030 and 2045 standards, beginning in 2022, every four years utilities are required to submit clean energy implementation plans with progressive targets. As an alternative form of compliance, CETA has a built-in cost cap in order to protect utility customers and ratepayers from inordinate cost increases. A utility may be considered in compliance if, over the four-year compliance period, the average annual incremental cost of compliance equals or is greater than a 2% increase of the utility’s weather-adjusted sales revenue (IOUs) or retail revenue requirement (COUs).
Utilities and organizations across the region and nation are grappling with understanding and incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion within their work and the immediate effects within their communities. Washington utilities are now mandated per CETA to consider the “equitable distribution of energy benefits and reduction of burdens to vulnerable populations and highly impacted communities.” This includes – but is not limited to – consideration of public health, economics, environmental impacts, and the equitable distribution of energy and non-energy benefits.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission and the Washington Department of Commerce are undergoing rulemaking processes to determine implementation of the law as prescribed by CETA. The rulemaking process is expected to last through 2021.
|Note: In July 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 2021, mandating a 100% clean electricity supply by 2040 for independent owned utilities (IOUs) and electricity service suppliers. The bill phases in greenhouse gas reductions below baseline emissions (average 2010-2012 emissions) of 80% by 2030, 90% by 2035, and 100% by 2040. It also precludes new fossil-fuel projects from being sited in the state of Oregon. Data for the 2021 Power Plan was frozen in April 2020, and therefore this policy is not included in the clean policy analysis. However, an "Updated Clean Energy Policy Analysis" is provided in the "Clean Policy Analysis" section.|
Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a greenhouse gas reduction goal by Executive Order 20-04 on March 10, 2020. An economy-wide strategy, Oregon’s goal is to reduce emissions at least 45% below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The executive order is wide-ranging and applies to many state agencies and programs including caps on emissions from large stationary sources (including natural gas generating plants) and transportation fuels, increasing energy efficiency building code and appliance standards, and planning and investment in transportation electrification infrastructure.
Idaho does not have any state-level clean policy or greenhouse-gas reduction initiative at this time.
Through Executive Order 8-2019 on July 1, 2019, Montana Governor Steve Bullock created the Montana Climate Solutions Council to develop strategies and recommendations to address and adapt to climate change in the state over the next several decades. Amongst the priorities is a goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for average annual electric load state-wide by 2035 and economy-wide by 2050. The Montana Climate Solutions Plan was completed in August 2020 and includes a roadmap with recommendations such as encouraging community solar installations through legislative incentives, exploring new energy storage technologies and their application in Montana, and investigating microgrid opportunities.
The future of the Climate Solutions Plan is unclear under current Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, who took office in January 2021.
Utility Clean Electricity Goals
Over the past several years, many utilities across the region and western interconnect have adopted clean energy goals and decarbonization initiatives. For a complete inventory of utility goals, see the Council’s clean energy repository.